Monday, June 04, 2012

Japotage (Germany, 1985)

Kai Taschner (Synthesizer, Saxophone, Vocals, Percussion, zithar), O. Schirm (Synthesizer, Computer Programming, Tapes), M.Kunz (Drums, Xylophone, Percussion, Backgrnd Vocals)
Plus Special Guest: H.P. Struer: Bass, Synth, Clavinet, Guitar-synth, Hackbrett (Bavarian Koto Substitute)

Musical Guests:
Donald Arthur : Lead vocals on Piranha
Ali Askin : detuned Piano on Fuget
Ernst Struer: Perc on Bazar and Hachiko
Bernhard Ries: Drum computer on Grey Man and Fugu

Production, Concept and Design: Taschner
Drawings by Ulrich Sachweh
Photos by Susanne Kracke
Writing-art by Tom Bussjager

It's absolutely incredible what was going on in Germany in the late seventies and eighties. Another completely unknown lost LP that had a lot of work put into it by a few highly competent musicians as you can see in the list above. Having said that, this is for sure an odd album that seems to be confused in its Japan-ambivalence with the usual allusions to samurais, godzilla, fugu (the poisonous puffer fish), all the cliches of the culture, it seems satiric, but who knows? Remember "domo arigato mister roboto?" In those days of course there was a huge market in Japan-related cultural products or content as we would say now, who can forget the hysteria in America about Japan buying up all of the USA? (The fact the same was applied to the arabs a decade earlier and is now applied to the chinese today always escapes the ever-forgetful news). And who could ever forget the images of George Bush senior vomiting in the lap of the Japanese Prime minister? (Sorry that has nothing to do with this record-- I just wanted to throw that in there for fun.)

Anyways, here the compositions are progressive without a doubt, and the variety of instrumentation is really impressive. You will note for ex. some surprising dissonances in the instr. Grey Man coming from the synths. Ode to a pulpwriter recalls the typewriter concerto from In Spe; and with its swirling synthesized string section and very produced instrumental sounds it stands out as a nice progressive track, seemingly quite out of place for the zeitgeist of 1985. Those typewriter sounds return, annoyingly, in the 6th track, leading me to believe along with the written insert that the album is attempting to be a concept album based on pulp fiction. The 'bavarian koto substitute' (in Hachico) to me sounds very much like a Japanese koto, perhaps it's analogous to how Japanese kobe beef (the massaged cows that love to drink beer like me) is similar to American wagyu (I wouldn't know, I've never had the real Japanese one, and considering the cost never will-- perhaps master Shige has tried it and can tell us though). Or perhaps it's analogous to the way American electronics are so cheap and failure-prone compared to the Japanese masters. Or the way my rips don't sound as professional as Shige's.

The insert is so interesting I included it below and will attempt scanner reproduction when I get some time, perhaps in the coming of the next decade. I strongly recommend you read it as you listen to complete this bizarre progressive experience. To me it recalls the famous french graphic artist Topor who used to contribute to the insane French comic for grown-ups, Hara-Kiri. Check out some of Topor's Japan-related drawings sometime, they're crazy in a way we never see today. I have a beautiful coffee-table book of the "The best of hara kiri" which everyone should look at, that underground culture from the 70s is just out of this world.

As samples I've included the second track with its typewriter sounds, and the fifth with the fake koto instrument.


Tristan Stefan said...


apps79 said...

thanks for this rare material,cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tristan.



PHSStudiosRJ said...

Many thanks Tristan. Post worthy of praise and gratitude...

Thus, another was cut off from the search list...


Loungehub said...

"Deleted due to inactivity" comes up so often. I wish I could listen to all the great music posted on this blog.

Olaf Schirm said...

You can see and listen to more of my works on my site.
My solo composition, the 4th song of the A-Side of Japotage (Electric Teahouse) can be found here:
Moog Modular (Olaf Schirm) and Sax (Kai Taschner)

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